Ice Culture

Darcy O'Neil :: January 11, 2010 10:47 PM

For Part III of my look into crystal clear ice, I ventured to a company less than an hour from where I live that specializes in making clear ice. It should be no surprise that a company located in Canada is doing amazing things with ice, but the fact that they ship the ice to the four corners of the globe is impressive. Their key to success is the sheer quantity of crystal clear ice they produce on any given day and their ability to sculpt it into fascinating structures.

On a typical snowy day in January, I trekked an hour north to the sleepy town of Hensall (population about 1,000). This is where Ice Culture produces their ice in the 32,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse and ships around the world to dozens of high profile clients like Ketel One Vodka, BMW, Las Vegas casino's (Minus 5 Lounge) and NASA. They produce a wide range of ice forms including sculptures, ice luges, bottle chillers and ice bars and an ice restaurant in Dubai.

Selling a product that melts can be problematic, but Julian Bayley, owner of Ice Culture has a very innovative mind. He has incorporated technology to make ice carving easier using CNC machining systems. The equipment was retro-fitted to handle the cold temperatures and the results have shaved hours off production time. He's invented a variety of ice tools that, instead of keeping them as trade secrets, has developed them and sells them to the ice sculpting industry and he's even looking at ways to package ice so it can be shipped short distances with refrigeration. Beyond the tools to carve ice, many unique modifications have been made to the the cooling systems to improve efficiency. When your only product is water, you better be efficient.

Each day, one hundred 10" x 20" x 40" blocks of crystal clear food grade ice are produced, sculpted and shipped. Besides the big ticket items, they also produce crystal clear ice balls used for drinks. For orders of 200 balls they can be purchased for around $1.50 each, if you order more, probably less. Remember, shipping can be expensive for small orders, but if you contact Ice Culture I'm sure they are quite familiar with how best to ship the ice. You can also order solid blocks of ice (280 lbs each).

If you live in Ontario, western New York state or Michigan you might want to think about ordering and picking up the ice yourself. Hensall is about 2 hours from Toronto and 3 hours from Detroit and Buffalo. Here's the contact info:

Ice Culture

The process for making the ice uses Clineball equipment, which freezes the water from the bottom up. This prevents the ice from fracturing and pockets of air forming throughout the ice, which creates that ugly hazy appearance.

While doing research for this article, I discovered dozens of high profile articles on this company. Instead of rehashing them all, Wired Magazine has a great article that provides even more detail about Ice Culture, its owner and their history.

Wired Magazine: Mr. Freeze

If you have a bar, or even a major event like a wedding or corporate party, having a couple hundred ice balls would be pretty impressive. For some unknown reason people are enamoured with clear ice and it truly does make a lasting impression.

Fix the Pumps
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